April 24, 2018

A New Weapon for Budgets: EveryLibrary | Blatant Berry

I was overjoyed when John Chrastka emailed to tell me about EveryLibrary, the new political action committee (PAC) he had just created. EveryLibrary will raise funds nationally and spend them on local library ballot initiatives like tax rates, bonds, and other referenda. It is difficult to understand why none of us in the profession nor our organizations did this decades ago.

The new PAC is a nonpartisan organization, registered under section 501c4 of the U.S. Internal Revenue code. The plan is that it will also serve as a consulting organization for libraries on their political campaigns. We hope it will ultimately back the purchase of space and time in the media to deliver the message to voters on the value of and need for ­libraries.

EveryLibrary is not bound by the IRS rules against direct voter advocacy that have hamstrung the efforts of the American Library Association (ALA) and other organizations that maintain 501c3 status as “charitable organizations.” The IRS allows contributions to these groups to be deducted from federal taxes but forbids them from spending more than a small portion of their efforts or funds on campaigning. It also forbids 501c3 groups from doing any advocacy whatsoever for particular candidates. [A full report, “Library PAC Will Back Local Ballot Questions,” by Meredith Schwartz, appeared on the LJ web site].

“Any library ballot initiative anywhere matters to every library everywhere,” said Chrastka, adding, “Elections are the ‘last mile’ of library advocacy.”

EveryLibrary is currently engaged in an initial $50,000 fundraising round until November 7 to underwrite legal fees and create campaign toolkits, voter education materials, and messaging targeted to 2013 election initiatives. Chrastka expects staff will be added to help with library activities. He says EveryLibrary’s charter and bylaws will be shared with the library community in October for comment and feedback.

Chrastka, president of the Board of Trustees of the Berwyn Public Library, IL, is a partner in AssociaDirect, a Chicago-based consultancy supporting associations in membership recruitment and conference and governance operations. He served as director for membership development at the American Library Association (ALA) until August 2011 and is chair of the Illinois Library Association Fundraising Committee. AssociaDirect has no formal role in EveryLibrary, which will be governed by a three-member Board of Directors. A planned Advisory Board of 12–15 people from libraries of all types will decide which strategies and campaigns the PAC will sponsor.

Although EveryLibrary existed before the appearance of my column “Fix Library Advocacy” (LJ 9/1/12, p. 8), it seemed like an instantaneous relevant response to that critique of library advocacy efforts. It is exactly the right kind of library-focused endeavor.

EveryLibrary is needed now more than ever. Antigovernment and antitax forces have beaten back library enterprises much more frequently in recent years. As I reported in that September 1 column, mayors of several major U.S. cities have targeted library budgets for reduction despite their tiny share of city taxes. Governors from both major political parties have savaged state funding.

While it is obvious that there is still a massive reservoir of public support for libraries, the current political climate is eroding that work in some jurisdictions. The combination of economic recession and antitax rhetoric is poisonous to all public agencies and institutions, and libraries are no exception. EveryLibrary is a direct, aggressive way to combat these toxic forces. In the past, libraries have been able to ride out bad times and accept small reductions in services, collections, and hours. These losses have now become much too deep and are inflicting nearly fatal wounds to needed library service in too many places in America. EveryLibrary offers the first potentially effective way to begin to turn the tide.

I will pledge my support for the PAC before the November 7 deadline. I trust that others will do the same.

John N. Berry III

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

John N. Berry III About John N. Berry III

John N. Berry III (jberry@mediasourceinc.com) is Editor-at-Large, LJ. Berry joined the magazine in 1964 as Assistant Editor, becoming editor-in-Chief in 1969 and serving in that role until 2006.

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  1. AK Benjamin says:

    This would really help the library system in Glendale, AZ. Here is what we are dealing with.

    :To all saying this is all just scare tactics…..it is only kinda true. Yes they are trying to scare residents, but the service reductions coming if this does not get voted down are real. Erik Strunk told all of the library staff that if the vote doesn’t go the city’s way, all 55 library staff people will be let go. The two library branches will be closed, and the main library will be outsourced to and outside company. The new staff will be part time paraprofessionals, and hours and services will be less. City Of Glendale documents back this up. The librarians
    believe it enough that people I know, and love, are looking for other jobs to start before 2013. There is also NO GUARANTEE that if the library system helps the city keep this tax, that the layoffs won’t happen anyway. That is how dire this situation is for the city library system. But we have to give it a chance.

    The library system is not losing patrons, or is an antiquated dinosaur either, as some critics suggest. . Last year the Glendale Public Library System served 180,000 patrons, and checked out 2.1 million items. On busy days the library system serves, educates, and answers questions of over 3, 0000 residents. The numbers in library patronage have gone UP since 2008, even as the library system has shed 17FTE’s and 40% of it’s budget. Elaine Scruggs thinks so little of the library system and its employees that she was overheard at a council meeting saying, “The library is a black hole in the budget.” However, to save the library system, we need to put politics aside.

    If you do not support the library system with this tax. It WILL go away. This does not mean that the tax was voted on fairly. It also does not mean that you support the city’s positions that made this tax necessary. I do not. It does mean that the library system will have a chance to dig it’s heels in against this rising tide, keep staff employed, and maybe become the once great library it was for Glendale families, ans residents in the year to come. If not, the library as we know, and love it, will cease to exist. This is the choice we face. The future beckons